“The challenge has been set. Score over 400 to win. Get out for less than that and lose. It’s a simple enough equation,” said Coach2.0 to the team meeting.
“Limp to 9/259 at stumps, draw it because it’s going to rain tomorrow,” said The Prof under his breath. We winked at each other. That seemed like the best outcome for the day ahead.
Coach2.0 was interrupted by a commotion at the back of the room. Darren (Team psychologist) stumbled through the door wearing a kids’ fancy dress American Indian get up and accompanied by a squealing piglet. The pig was playful little thing – it darted off under the chairs before Puff could put it between two slices of bread.
Darren looked offended – as if it wasn’t perfectly obvious what he was up to. “I’m about to lead us in a rain dance. The press don’t think as can last out the day, so I thought . . . .”
“You thought you’d ruin our chances of winning?”
The tense silence was broken when the piglet ran around Coach2.0 squealing. He bent over and grabbed the little porker in one deft movement. “Now do something useful and get this turned into a mountain of ribs and a pork roast for tomorrow night’s victory dinner, will you?”
Darren collected the wriggling porker and left as quickly as he could.
“See ball, hit ball. Score runs. WIN!” Coach stormed out.
It all went to plan until the ball before lunch. Puff Warner had managed to survive a scratchy session and was starting to look good, when England’s spinner slipped one past the bat to claim an LBW. The ham sandwiches at lunch were eaten in silence, but that didn’t compare to the silence that fell in the dressing room as we collapsed, losing 4/9 soon after lunch.
The clouds remained high, and Darren was nowhere to be seen.
Captain Cook invited us to his end of game drinks in the evening. He realised that we might not feel up to it, given how old we were, but it was part and parcel of this post-sledging hush hush era. The Captain replied that he would only feel really disappointed if England won any of the next 4 tests. And no, we didn’t need the wheelchairs lined up at reception. The official stance is that we wouldn’t be sharing a beer until the end of the series, as has been the case since 2005. Besides, we can’t stand Fosters.
The Prof and I went in anyway, only to meet The Captain at the door. Chef welcomed us with open arms like a long lost relative. Inside were the reminders from 2013 – the first innings collapses, the second innings capitulations, Hollywood’s front pad, the wasted reviews and the reviews not taken. All the stupid outs were there highlighted by one sentence ‘The Captain c Root b Broad’ repeated 8 times down one wall like the deteriorating writings of a troubled mind.
“What do you think?” Broad asked. “A real tribute.”
The Captain squinted. “The colour scheme is nice, yellow on black, but it wouldn’t win The Packers Prize in the Archibald?”
“I’m entering it into the ECB Pitch Curator Prize. There are a few lines to add yet.”
The Captain understood and stifled a yawn. Broad used way too much product in his hair. It was a real distraction in the run up to the crease. That and trying to work out which way the bloody Duke was swinging. England was on top. They knew it, he knew it, everyone knew it.
England 430 and 289, Australia 308 and 242. England by 169, go 1-0 in the Series.